Winter has come. With winter brings lack of daylight, wind, snow, and below freezing temperatures, all of which make us and our canine companions less likely to spend time outside being active. With being cooped up inside, our dogs get restless and are more likely to develop destructive behaviors along with gaining some “winter weight.” Having two active dogs myself, I have discovered some ways to keep them fit and active during the winter even without spending hours outside.
Step 1 – Diet
The biggest step in keeping a dog healthy year round is to be conscious of their diet. Feeding a balanced, high quality dog food with measured meals plays a huge roll in their health. Consider their activity level during the winter: they aren’t going on long hikes and spending hours swimming anymore. Slowly cut back on their food to see how much they need to keep a proper body condition. Meals also give you a chance to make your pup work a little more – consider using an interactive food dispenser to keep their minds entertained. Also consider taking a few kibbles of their meal to use as treats with working on training.
Step 2 – Exercise
Yes, there are ways to exercise your dog indoors! Of course each pet is different and one may not like the same activity as another. Here are a few ideas to try, hopefully you will find an activity that your dog enjoys.
If your pet can handle playing fetch inside without breaking something, go for it!
Set up an obstacle course! I placed a cardboard box in a doorway, and had my pups follow me back and forth jumping over it. Great exercise for us all. You can also purchase some agility equipment to set up around the house such as cones, poles, and jumps.
Play “Go Find It.” We like to play this with our favorite toy Mr. Owl. We “Sit,” “Stay,” go hide Mr. Owl in another room, come back and give the command “Go Find It.” When Mr. Owl is returned, we get praise and a kibble! This is a great way to exercise their mind and body along with working on training commands. If your dog is more food motivated, try hiding kibbles around the room: under tables, pillows, etc and have them sniff out the treats.
Play Tug-of-War: A classic.
If you have a treadmill in your house, train your pet to walk on it. (Supervised, of course.)
Think outside the box. I bought a feather on a stick for my cat, but my dog likes to play with it more. She jumps and chases after it!
Chasing bubbles or laser pointer.
Step 3 – Mind Stimulation
I’ve already touched on a few things that will help exercise your dog’s mind such as food puzzles and interactive play. You can find many ideas and recipes online to keep your pup occupied with KONG toys – consider using part of their kibble meal with a small amount of peanut butter for a classic go-to. Another idea for stimulation is to teach them a new trick or command. If you have trouble with this at home, winter is a great time to enroll in obedience classes to brush up on old skills or learn new ones.
Have a chewer on your hands? Rawhides can entertain dogs for a period of time. Always supervise your pet and take it away to harden when it starts getting soft so they don’t swallow the chunks. It’s not a bad idea to have multiples on hand and change them out. Be mindful that rawhides add calories and should be used in moderation. Avoid antlers and real animal bones as they can be too hard and may fracture your pup’s teeth.
With these ideas in tow, challenge yourself to keep your pup active and healthy this winter. Keep their diet on track, exercise body and mind, and remember that a tired dog is a good dog.
All of these games have been Lab tested and Lab approved!
Article Written by Carly